Brown Bird in Williamsburg

Road Trip
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  November 18, 2009

Along with other Mainers in Brooklyn this weekend playing at the Slumberland Records 20th anniversary celebration, Maine/Rhode Island chamber-folk standouts Brown Bird were also in the borough, playing the narrow Williamsburg bar Spike Hill Sunday night.

The group, best known around these parts as the trio of David Lamb and Jeremy and Jerusha Robinson (a couple who also perform as South China), have narrowed and expanded in recent years: the last Brown Bird disc, the spare Bottom of the Sea, was largely comprised of Lamb's solo material; their new album, The Devil Dancing (the first Peapod Recordings release pressed on vinyl!), finds them in the rare and energized form they flaunted in the epicenter of hipster this weekend. Brown Bird, currently a five-piece, were playing a country night.

As it turns out, not much needed to change for Brown Bird to play a "Sinner's Club" (as the weekly event is called): just the addition of Lamb's girlfriend, MorganEve Swain, on backing vocals and various strings; and Mike Samos on guitar and lap steel. Lamb's lyrics traffic pretty much the same terrain, save maybe a few extra uses of the word "whore": bones and branches and Bibles and boats get plenty of attention, but they're discussed with a swagger and slight kinkiness that take Brown Bird out of the chamber and ever so slightly into the hoedown.

The crowd ate it up — Ron Harrity, hot off his Slumberland coup, sold a handful of copies of the album within two minutes of the set ending — and Maine will get its chance to come December 4 and 5, when Brown Bird and South China alternate CD-release shows at Biddeford's Hogfarm Studios Annex and Portland's underground spot the Apohadion. After those gigs, the Robinsons (currently living out of their car) will rove the country, while the remainder of Brown Bird strike Europe with eyes zeroed in on the big time. And later, maybe even the Grand Ole Opry.

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